At the end of April my boyfriend and I had a much appreciated long weekend away in the Cotswolds. We picked the area as neither of us had explored there a lot before and we were keen to get out walking as well as have plenty to do in case the rain was horrid!
P booked the hotel as a treat and he managed to keep it completely secret until we pulled into the car park. It was so nice to not know where we were headed although I did know which town we would be close to so had enjoyed researching where we might like to visit.
We stayed at Number Four at Stow which is a pretty boutique hotel within walking distance of the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold. It is a really comfortable hotel with an approachable yet luxury feel. P had done his research and booked a room on the first floor and away from the road, it turns out the hotel is right on quite a busy main road so this research really paid off! The staff at the hotel were brilliant and we really enjoyed having somewhere that was so central to the Cotswolds as we felt we could pop back to recharge part way through the day if we felt like it.
Stow-on-the-Wold is a quintessential English village, chocolate picture box buildings surrounded by leafy green fields. We enjoyed peering into the windows of antique shops, mooching around book shops and sampling as many of the pubs and bars that we could find! It even has a magical church door that formed part of Tolkien’s inspiration for the door to Moria in Lord of the Rings.
Using the hotel as a jumping off point, we explored Upper and Lower Slaughter on foot – managing to not get lost, despite our very vague use of the map.
On the Friday night, I had booked us into dinner at Le Champignon Sauvage. You have to book at least six weeks in advance to ensure you get a table but my word, it’s worth being organised! This restaurant has not just one, but two Michelin stars as well as a Chef who has reputedly not missed a dinner service since he and his wife, Helen, created the restaurant which is nestled in Cheltenham, 27 years ago.
I don’t often rave about restaurants in the way that I have about Le Champignon Sauvage since we visited. We not only had the most phenomenal food which was almost indescribable but the service was absolutely impeccable. We didn’t want for anything but the fantastic waitresses seemed to know before we did what we were going to need next without being at all overbearing. Helen is clearly an expert in her field, she was charming and kind, providing an elegant welcome as well as overseeing proceedings in the dining room for the evening.
David Matthias Everitt is clearly deserving of his Good Food Guide 2014 Chef of the Year award, the food that arrived was perfect. Clever and inventive without being pretentious or unapproachable in any way. P and I chose different dishes from the À La Carte menu, I don’t even want to begin to describe in detail what we ate as there is no way I could do it justice.
Needless to say, if you find yourself in Cheltenham, try to get a reservation at Le Champignon Sauvage – you will not be disappointed. We found the whole experience to be perfect, without exaggeration. The restaurant is unassuming from the outside and the dining room is peaceful without being ostentatious. Everything else, from the service to the ambience and of course, the food and drink, will entrance you.
Saturday found us heading towards Stratford and unexpectedly arriving just as Shakespeare’s 451st Birthday Parade kicked off. We had no idea. Bemused, we explored the canals and enjoyed the street entertainment around the town.
The weekend also saw us explore the amazing Jacobean Chastleton House which is National Trust property. It hasn’t been restored but carefully managed so further decline is prevented. It was in hands of the same family for 400 years and has had virtually no modernisation which gives a fascinating insight into the way life has changed over the last few hundred years. We discovered, once there, that it was also one of the film locations for Wolf Hall.
I’m a huge fan of popping to a National Trust house when I’m passing by, I’ve had my membership for a few years and get so much use out of it. Such an interesting way to understand how society in the UK has changed and developed (I’m such a geek!).
Our weekend in the Cotswolds was full of quality time together, sunshine, good food, excellent wine, exploring, relaxing and plenty of laughs.
Where would you recommend for a mini-break?